With new firmware for the Alpha 77 and 99 and most current models now up for download, the promised rush of new firmware is probably complete. The Alpha 77 firmware has errors in the web page for Europe, referring to the Alpha 57 and showing pictures of the 57. This is probably because the page has been based on another used as a template. The firmware, we can confirm, is for A77 and updates correctly.
Note that when using a Windows PC, 64-bit doesn’t work with Windows 8. You have to read the asterisk info carefully to see this. Mac OSX 10.8.x Mountain Lion does work in 64-bit and there is no need to reboot to do the upgrades; older Mac systems must be in 32-bit mode.
The firmware is specified as updating the on-board lens correction list, and for the A99 (v1.01) the ability to use sensor assisted PDAF with some lenses: Provides support for the following ”Dual AF” function compliant lenses:
SAL24F20Z, SAL85F14Z, SAL135F18Z, SAL70300G, SAL70200G, SAL35F14G, SAL1635Z, SAL100M28, SAL50M28, SAL85F28, SAL300F28G Provides support for the following automatic compensation compliant lenses:
SAL100M28, SAL50M28, SAL85F28, SAL18200, SAL20F28, SAL28F28
You can find the A77, 99 updates and some other software via these links:
To find the updates for other cameras change the URLs to include SLT-A57 (to version 1.04), SLT-A65 (to version 1.07), SLT-A37 (to 1.04). There are no updates for the A33, A35, or A37 and no updates for DSLR models such as the A580.
There are also firmware updates for the NEX series, including the 5N:
Makes “SELP1650” retract immediately after turning off the camera
Improves autofocus operation stability
Enhancement of AF response: When subject distance changes enormously.
Improved stability in certain camera operations:
When setting [Lens Compensation: Distortion] “Auto” and [Picture Effect] “Miniature” at the same time.
When setting [Exposure Compensation], [Intelligent AF] operation improves.
Again, to find your updates, just change the model number – there are updates for the NEX-F3, NEX-5R, NEX-6, NEX-7 but not for the NEX-3, NEX-C3 or NEX-5. Improvements are given in the instructions and include correction for the 16-50mm on all cameras.
There is one software update – Alpha 99 compatible Remote Control 3 (USB control, shooting and image transfer from PC or Mac) is now released:
The same software can also be used as before (RC2) with Alpha 700, 900 and 850, reinforcing the value of these excellent DSLRs which were Sony’s three most professionally specified optical viewfinder models in their time (2007-2009) and remain so. The Alpha 77 is not supported. Settings can be changed on your computer, the camera can be triggered, and the resulting files stored on the computer.
RC3 is a stand-alone program now and does not require to be part of the Image Data Suite. It is Mac OS 10.8 (Mountain Lion, on Intel systems) and Windows 8 compatible (but not 64-bit Windows 8).
There is also a NEX lens firmware update, which can only be installed using an updated NEX-6 or NEX-5R (not a 7, or any other model).
Each lens is a separate updater so you need a well-charged battery and a little patience in order to update all your lenses. At the time of checking, there are no firmware updates for the LA-EA1, LA-EA2 or LA-EA3 Alpha lens adaptors for NEX.
Perhaps the strangest news from photokina, which I have not rushed to post here because I reckon every single website in the world will have treated it as urgent breaking unparalleled wonder – is that Sony and Hasselblad have signed a deal under which Hasselblad will make an APS-C (or perhaps full-frame NEX mount) mirrorless camera in Sweden.
Without any images other than a Hasselblad H logo to accompany the revelation, the world is left wondering what exactly Fujifilm has done wrong. A drawing of what might be an A-mount mopdel was shown at photokina but looks as if it could have been done by a teenager on the back of a school jotter; a prototype or mock-up NEX revision called the Lunar was little better. Clearly, Sony already announced its intention to allow approved partners to use the E-mount, and we can assume that the Hasselnex will come thus equipped. Carl Zeiss has announced a roadmap for E-mount lenses, and of course that would fit Hasselblad down to the ground. No need for a new lens range, their bodies (NEX-7/6 type?) would be sold with blueprinted Zeiss glass. Surely? Not just with relabelled Sony zooms?
And the bodies would be made in Sweden. That means less than you might assume, since all the internal component parts would presumably be sourced from Sony as a CKD kit. CKD is motor industry speak for ‘Completely Knocked Down’ – a car shipped as parts to a factory, to be assembled there. Hasselblad Sweden used once to be very good at assembling cameras, they recently moved all Danish production back to Gothenburg and re-established Swedish manufacture.
The BJP has been told the body would be aluminium. The NEX-7 is magnesium alloy. And the 7/6 body already looks really classy. The Lunar simply does not.
From the BJP report on this €5-6,000 version of the NEX-7 – click image to see their interview.
So, what of the H-series blads – made in Japan by Fuji, Hasselblad’s long-term partner in the H-range project?
And, when Hasselblad was quite willing to work with Rittreck/Norita/Fuji on rangefinder type cameras (the XPan was not their idea, it was a Rittreck/Norita concept) what has changed?
After all, Fuji’s XPro-1 and XF are staggeringly good cameras with a ridiculously ambitious and excellent range of lenses, not just superfast primes abut extending into popular zooms. They are built and styled to fit Hasselblad ambitions. Fuji optics have proved good enough for Hasselblad H.
Something has shifted. Maybe Hasselblad is no longer tied to Fujifilm and the announcement of manufacture returning to Gothenburg, made earlier this year, relates to a shift not from Denmark only but also from Japan. Perhaps Sony has demonstrated that superior medium-format size CMOS can be fabbed, saving costs for future generations of yet unimagined H-series bodies/backs where six 24 megapixel APS-C sensors will be stitched to create a 144 megapixel sensor measuring 47mm square!
Or perhaps Hasselblad realises that mirrorless need not mean hand-waved. They used to build waist-level cameras. How about a mirrorless waist-level, styled like a mini ‘blad and with the screen on top with a flip-up hood and magnifier?
Too much kölsch and imagination, I fear. But this certainly is strange news. A scoop for Sony – but exactly what for Hasselblad remains to be seen.
Most Japanese camera companies have divisions, groups, and teams right down to the very last individual product. Even a single lens design may have its own small team, from R&D and design down to final assembly. What we are seeing happen in Sony right now is the result of complex competition and collaboration between several teams.
Take, for example, the new Sony 300mm f/2.8 G SSM II. You might assume this lens was mainly an Alpha division product from the former Minolta heritage, but in fact it’s been redesigned to work better with NEX and also with both consumer and professional HD video cameras from APS-C through Super-35 to full frame 35mm.
SLT/SLR system users gain with improvements like Nano AR coating (similar to new coatings introduced by Sigma, Nikon, Pentax and Canon), better MF control, and a better degree of weathersealing. It’s the complete update of the SSM motor (is it SSM II, or entire lens version II?) which provides compatibility with on-sensor PDAF and enhances CDAF, to offer the prospect of object-tracking AF during video. At £6,700 UK it needs to show major benefits to compete in the still field, but may have a market all to itself when fitted to the new NEX-VG900E full frame video camera.
It’s easy to think – ‘the first ever full frame video cam!’ but that is not the case. The Canon 5D MkII established the DSLR form as an acceptable professional video camera, and in the last three years a vast industry of shooting rigs, grips, follow focus devices, monitor screens and accessories has grown up all based on turning this video-unfriendly camera into something movie and TV crews are comfortable with.
Sony has implemented the sought-after 24 frames per second rate in all the new models just announced, not going for the European excuse of 25fps being close enough. This is to allow a so-called cinematic look, despite the fact that the movie industry has been trying to get away from 24fps just the same way as it threw off the shackles of 16 or 18fps many years before. Users want it, so they have at last provided it.
From the very start of reviewing HD capable cameras, we have emphasised the issues with audio – the *absolute* not optional need for audio fixed or adjustable manual gain control. I’ve done this for years in printed magazines. So has any other writer who ever had to use a camera with auto gain and nothing else. First Nikon (basic) then Canon (full control) and now Sony show they listened, if slowly and relunctantly, to something their own audio engineers would have told them was vital not a luxury.
End result – Sony enters the mainstream for HD video shooting with the Alpha and NEX systems.
The same technologies, in terms of sensor use and implementation of optical advances linked to Phase-Detection On Sensor (which I’ll call PDOS), now apply across the entire range of Sony digital imaging products from Handycam, through Cyber-Shot, through NEX, to Alpha. The Cyber-shot range is only missing an APS-C model.
What is particularly interesting is that this divided path is a parallel path now and not a divergent one. There’s no question of one straight and narrow path leading to heaven, one broad and easy road to hell, and winding ferny way to faery. Instead we get a four-lane highway joining Sony present to Sony future, with every option to change lane if you want to overtake.
Legacy and inheritance planning
Sony acquired a lot of old Minolta tech as a dowry in the 206 marriage to the Alpha system. Now having invested that legacy they have to make sure it still has value for future generations.
And example of what this really means can be found in the PDOS restrictions of the A99. The AF-D mode won’t work with some lenses, yet. For example – the 16mm f/2.8 fisheye, the 20mm f/2.8, the 16-35mm CZ f/2.8 zoom, any Konica Minolta zoom, any old Minolta AF system lens, the 35mm f/1.4, the 85mm f/1.4 CZ and G, the 135mm f/1.8 CZ and f/2.8 STF, the 200mm f/4 Apo G Macro, the 24-105mm D, any macro lens, the 400mm f/4.5, 600mm f/4, 200mm f/2.8 or the 300mm f/2.8 G SSM (pre-II). It is not even flagged as working with the 30mm f/2.8 SAM macro, 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8 or the 24mm f/2 Carl Zeiss SSM ZA. Or the 70-300mm G SSM, let alone the basic 75-300mm SAL.
It will only work with the 24-70mm f/2.8 CZ, the 28-75mm f/2.8 SAM, the 50mm f/1.4 current design, the 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM, the new 300mm f/2.8 G SSM II, 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM and the new 500mm f/4 G SSM. Sony’s firmware requires that the user enter the focusing range involved. This is put forward as an advantage – making the system less likely to focus on a fence instead of the view through it – but in fact it’s an integral part of PDOS. Each of the 102 focus points spread across the sensor* is not a single pixel-pair, it’s a cluster of several pixel pairs tightly grouped. There may be the minimum of three differently pitched PDOS points per location, or perhaps more, to cope with the wide range of exit pupil conditions encountered when using Alpha-mount lenes.
For any one lens, the camera will need to know the broad focus range involved (hopefully the main PDAF array will normally provide this), the aperture at which focusing is taking place, and some further information about how the zoom or lens design influences the exit ray cone. From this, it will select the correct PDOS configuration and I think that for some lenses only a central zone will be active.
Sony states that firmware updates will add further lenses, but this technology only requires some relatively simple information based on the optical design. If they could have added more lenses from the start, they would have. Watch this space, because it may remain more of an empty space than you hope for.
* Sony imply that the PDOS area is large – actually it’s about 13mm square, within the APS-C zone, and does not extend towards the ends of the full frame much further than the cluster of regular PDAF points. These seem to be the same module as the A77, giving the A99 an AF ‘zone’ much smaller relative to its frame.
Zones and maps
The Alpha 99 also introduces something which almost has to happen if any of the above is going to work at all. Anti-aliasing filters do not have an even effect on sensors, especially full frame with wider angle lenses where the rear nodal point of the lens is relatively close. Geometry means that light passes through them at more of an angle towards the edges and corners, and there is therefore more distance between AA filter and sensor surface. With an AA filter having a single value diffraction-created diffusion of the image-forming light (aka blurring), the effect gets stronger as you move away from the centre (axis).
Since most lenses are also sharper in the centre and typical sensor microlenses are not ‘tuned’ from centre to edge, the overall result is to emphasise fall-off from centre to edge. Secondary results include a dramatic tendency for bright sources imaged in the extreme corners to have a strong, directional, surrounding glare. This is boosted by internal multiple reflection between the sensor surface and the inner face of the AA filter, especially if the incident rays are at 40° or less to the focal plane (where on-axis rays are described as being at 90°).
The best solution to this is the classic one – what Olympus called telecentric lens design, where you do your best to project the image on to the sensor from a relatively distant position keeping all rays, centre to edge, as close to 90° as possible. But that calls for new lens designs and also restricts the optical formulae, tending to produce much larger heavier lenses. It’s very practical on one-inch or smaller sensors, OK on MicroFourThirds, feasible for NEX but not much an option for a full-frame coverage.
So, Sony has introduced an AA filter which they describe as ‘multi-segment lo-pass’. It’s not one strength across the entire frame, but divided or graded to optimise performance towards the corners. At the same time, they have introduced a similar zoning to noise reduction, which we assume to mean the NR applies to the raw output before a raw file is saved. Combined with the usual sensor mapping, and lens profile based vignetting compensation, the overall effect of these refinements should be to:
Even out the apparent resolution and image acutance across the frame
Reduce the mapped peripheral gain effect, under which images appear to be noisier at the edges unless natural vignetting is allowed to be present
Remove artefacts such as corner streaking or softening, and fringes or flare from light sources towards the extremes
No doubt this is also combined with the detailed ‘repair’ function used to deal with PDOS. More on this later, as there’s an implication that the PDOS on the A99 is not the same as that on the NEX-5R or NEX-6, and may use a second layer of pixels leaving all 24.3 megapixels of the imaging layer untouched.
The area-specific NR is probably essential to achieve the high ISO range at 14-bit conversion, though it’s not unusual for cameras at this level which claim 14-bit conversion to have a variable true bit depth depending on ISO, image style and exposure conditions. We can assume that 14-bit will only be fully utilised under ideal conditions at ISO 100.
Exactly how Sony has managed to adjust AA values in ‘segments’ without visible transitions, we’ll have to find out. The same goes for NR.
The missing NEX-9
There is one camera absent from the September 12th launch – the 24 megapixel full frame NEX-9. The appearance of the HD video Handycam, NEX-VG900E, indicates that the model name for the full frame 24 megapixel NEX will be NEX-9. Images of the VG900 show it using an Alpha via the standard LA-EA2 adaptor, and we can be sure that this and not a special range of E-mount full frame lenses (almost pointless) will be how the NEX-9 takes A-mount glass.
In the meantime, the NEX-6 appears to be perfectly pitched in price, but see my comment below about GPS.
The missing GPS
While the A99 has GPS, we’re still left with no NEX model yet featuring GPS despite these being the ideal travel and walking companion. Nor is there a current SLT model with 16 megapixels and GPS, as the Alpha 55 replacement doesn’t have it and the ‘baby’ A77, the A65, is a 24 megapixel again. The Cyber-shot RX100 and RX1 models also don’t have GPS. Whether or not the new hot shoe will allow an add-on GPS remains to be seen.
The new 50mm f/1.4 SSM Carl Zeiss T* Planar
Whatever you think of Minolta glass, or new Sony glass, the Carl Zeiss name on a lens is a huge draw. Reactions to the otherwise rather pedestrian DSC-RX1 prove this. People will put up with being back in 1972 – the era of cameras like the Minolta Hi-Matics with fixed 40mm f/1.7 and similar Gauss design lenses of very high quality – if only it means getting rid of poor quality digital images. There was a time when you couldn’t sell a 50mm standard lens with a camera, and there was a time before that when every system was judged initially on the quality of its 50mm choices. We may be returning to that way of thinking.
Edit – at the 2006 launch of the Alpha 100, a 50mm f/1.4 CZ was briefly shown in Paul Genge’s presentation to UK/English language journalists. I did not report on this as none of the literature confirmed what we saw on the Powerpoint screen. I believe this lens has been planned for six years.
The new HVL-F60AM flash with rather weak video light and new hot shoe might seem an annoying departure, but remember, the A99 has no built-in flash and thus can not control wireless remotes without a commander. No HVL-F20AM style mini flash has been previewed, so the F60AM is the only commander. But your old flash will work fine off-camera controlled by your new one.
Parked on the hard shoulder
So, having looked at the four way road map for Sony, I must confess that I’m pulling into a rest area for a while. I did not sell my Alpha 900 or Alpha 77, and I’m glad I didn’t. Nor did I sell my 24mm f/2 even though it has been little used for a few months. It has been waiting for a 36 megapixel full-framer, which makes a 24mm a much better all-round lens because of the croppable image size.
I’m not one of those photographers obsessed by bokeh or the need to throw parts of my picture into extreme defocus. At 24 megapixels, APS-C is already seriously short of depth of field even at optimum apertures like f/9. I’m more likely to spend my money on a Samyang 24mm f/3.5 full frame tilt-shift lens to use with both the A900 and A77 than to invest in an A99. I have no use for a revised 300mm f/2.8, especially on full frame where it seems to me now to be a very conservative focal length, and though I’m sure a 50mm CZ will be wonderful I have no complaints about my Minolta-design Sony 50mm f/1.4. I do shoot video, but rarely in conditions which demand that I use full frame, and if Sony don’t put manual audio control into older models via a firmware fix, I’ll just buy a Canon 600D.
The price of the Alpha 99 is not as bad as people suggest, with UK stories launching it at £2082+VAT, or $3200. But I’ve got a very good quality pure still camera in the Alpha 900, with effectively noise-free imaging from ISO 100 to 320, excellent battery life and exactly the same maximum image size offered by the 99.
I think I’m in the market for the NEX-6 body but I do not care in the slightest about the WiFi aspect, or the downloadable apps. If the new remote control can actually trigger and end video shooting with the A77, NEX-5n (etc) I’ll definitely buy one. The RX1 is not for me either – had it been fitted with a 17mm, 20mm or even a conservative 24mm then it would have followed in the footsteps of the great wide-angle cameras I have worked with over the years from the Brooks Veriwide through the Plaubel 55W to Hasselblad SWC and Fujfilm G645SW. I would not even mind a separate optical finder for that, much; I was used to it!
Things we forget
The industry has put a huge effort into autofocus solutions ideal for interchangeable lenses and zooms, and apparently set aside the idea of external AF modules for good. With a fixed lens like the RX1, an AF module not working through the camera lens itself is a practical idea and could be far faster. We have also forgotten about those twin-lens compacts, with a switch to go from 35mm to 65mm (or whatever). Small sensor sizes, new lens design and ideas could make that concept work again.
The story of development for all types of camera is not over as there are old ideas to be revisited, and new ideas yet to come.
The NEX-6 compact system camera from Sony puts DSLR power in your pocket
DSLR-quality images and Full HD video, from newly-developed large 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor plus high sensitivity up to ISO 25600
New Fast Hybrid AF for optimal fast and precise autofocus in any situation; DSLR-like AF tracking for shooting at up to 10 fps
High-resolution XGA OLED Tru-Finder™
Intuitive DSLR-style operation with dual dials and Quick Navi interface
Download new features through built-in Wi-Fi with PlayMemories Camera Apps TM , the world’s first application download service*
Built-in flash and new Multi Interface Shoe
Editor’s note: no picture of the camera with the new 16-50mm collapsible lens shows the lens in any useful position, or from an informative angle, only head-on, as issued by Sony this morning. The image above shows the new 10-18mm wide angle zoom, a 15-27mm equivalent, with a constant f/4 aperture and the welcome inclusion of optical image stabilisation.
* For interchangeable-lens digital cameras as of August 2012
Step up to an imaging experience that’s in a class of its own. The new NEX-6 compact system camera from Sony packs the imaging power, shooting responses, handling and operability of a DSLR into a pocket-sized mirrorless camera.
Partnered with the growing range of E-mount interchangeable lenses, the NEX-6 appeals to committed DSLR users who need to travel light without compromising picture quality. Offering big-sensor picture performance in a compact body, the new camera also makes an ideal option for step-up photographers looking to significantly expand their creative options.
The NEX-6 shares many imaging innovations with the newly-announced NEX-5R – from a responsive Fast Hybrid AF system to Wi-Fi connectivity and downloadable Camera Apps.
Crafted with discerning photographers in mind, the new camera also features the same precision electronic viewfinder and DSLR-style ergonomics found on the flagship NEX-7.
The large Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor inside the NEX-6 offers 16.1 effective megapixels for true DSLR-quality images and detail-packed Full HD video. It’s teamed with the powerful BIONZ image processor that ensures flawless, low-noise images – even when you’re shooting dimly-lit interiors at extended sensitivity settings up to ISO 25600.
Similar to the recently-announced NEX-5R, the NEX-6 features an innovative new Fast Hybrid AF system that combines phase- and contrast-detection autofocus methods to suit virtually any shooting situation. Phase-detection AF that quickly analyses subject distance is complemented by contrast-detection AF to confirm extremely fine focus. In Speed Priority mode, the NEX-5R switches automatically to pure phase-detection tracking AF. You’ll enjoy DSLR-like focusing responses when you’re capturing fast-moving action with high-speed burst shooting at up to 10 frames per second.
From launch, Fast Hybrid AF is supported with these lenses: E 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS; E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS; E 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS; E 24mm F1.8 ZA Sonnar T*; E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS. Firmware upgrades will steadily expand the range of lenses offering Fast Hybrid AF support.
As with the NEX-7, the NEX-6 features an XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ for precision framing and focusing. This acclaimed electronic viewfinder gives a bright, detail-packed, high contrast view of still images and video, with 100% frame coverage and a wide field of view to rival pro-grade optical viewfinders. On-screen grid lines and a digital level gauge can be displayed to assist with accurate framing.
The OLED Tru-Finder™ is complemented by a 7.5 cm (3.0″) Xtra Fine LCD that can be angled up to 90° up or 45° down (approx.) for easy viewing in virtually any shooting position. The LCD screen assures superb detail and contrast with significantly reduced on-screen reflections, aiding composition when you’re shooting outdoors or in direct light.
Despite its compact body dimensions, the NEX-6 offers instantly reassuring operation for DSLR enthusiasts. A strategically-positioned mode dial on top of the camera allows quick setting of shooting modes – including P/A/S/M and Sweep Panorama – just as you’d expect on much larger interchangeable lens cameras. It’s joined by a control dial located under the mode dial, plus a separate control wheel on the camera back for fine adjustments of exposure, ISO, white balance and other settings.
Also inherited from high-end A-mount cameras by Sony, the pro-focused Quick Navi interface allows fingertip adjustment of settings without taking the viewfinder away from your eye.
Full HD movie shooting is enhanced with a new Auto Slow Shutter feature that adds extra sparkle to low-light clips. The NEX-6 detects dim interiors and night scenes, automatically switching to a slower shutter speed to brighten up your footage.
Shared with the NEX-5R, integrated Wi-Fi allows simple wireless photo and video transfers to various smartphones or tablets running the free PlayMemories Mobile app. Images can also be transferred wirelessly to a networked PC, or viewed wirelessly on any DLNA-compatible TV.
As also featured on the NEX-5R, PlayMemories Camera Apps expands the capabilities of the NEX-6 as your shooting needs evolve. Just connect the camera to your PC via Wi-Fi or USB. Then log in to your Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) account and explore the world’s first download service1 that lets you install new functions on demand. From launch, available apps include Picture Effect+; Bracket Pro; Multi-Frame NR; Smart Remote Control and Direct Upload. Sony also plans to introduce further apps such as Photo Retouch, followed by Time-Lapse and Cinematic Photo.
Alongside a handy pop-up flash, there’s a versatile new Multi Interface Shoe that’s capable of ‘intelligent’ linkage with various accessories.
New interchangeable lenses for E-mount cameras
The choice of interchangeable lenses for E-mount cameras by Sony grows with three additional models.
The SELP1650 is an extremely light, compact 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 powered zoom lens with Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation built-in for clearer handheld images. The lens body measures just 29.9mm when fully retracted, making the SELP1650 an ideal travel companion. There’s also a dual-function ring that controls both power zoom and manual focus, depending on operating mode. With the camera set to AF the control ring adjusts smooth, high-speed zoom with small hand movements. With the camera in MF mode, the ring controls manual focus. Smooth power zoom makes the lens particularly suitable for video shooting.
The SEL35F18 is a fast 35mm prime / fixed focal length lens with a bright maximum aperture of F1.8 and Optical SteadyShot built in. It offers excellent optical sharpness and clarity as well as bokeh effect– whether you’re shooting portraits, street scenes or Full HD video. Featuring a new exterior design, the lens is easy to handle and light to carry.
Adopting the super ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass which reduces colour aberration, the SEL1018 is a super-wide angle zoom with a maximum aperture of F4 right across its 10-18mm range and Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation inside. Ideal for landscapes and interiors, it’s also capable of producing dramatic perspective effects at its widest setting.
New accessories for NEX-6
Crafted in genuine leather, the LCS-ELC6 Soft Carrying Case combines a stylish body case and lens jacket. Styled exclusively for the NEX-6, it’s suitable for use with the camera and attached SELP1650 or SEL16F28 lens. The camera’s LCD screen can be tilted even when body case is attached; tripod attachment is also possible with the case attached.
The LCS-EJA Soft Carrying Case can be used for all α E-mount cameras, and is ideal for use with the new SELP1650 or SEL16F28 lens attached. Internal pockets offer space to store the front lens cap and a spare memory card.
A-mount flagship 35mm full-frame camera debuts Dual AF System and pro-style video features
Flagship camera with Translucent Mirror Technology and newly developed 24.3 effective megapixel full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor
World’s first full-frame camera1 with Dual AF System with 19 sensors (including 11 cross sensors) + 102 AF point system (focal plane) and a new AF range control function to set the distance range recognised by the AF system
Very wide sensitivity range ISO 50-25600 (at expanded sensitivity setting) with extremely low noise
Advanced Full HD 50p progressive movie shooting with non-stop Continuous AF and pro-style audio features
XGA OLED Tru-Finder with 100% frame coverage
Enthusiast-class handling with tough, light magnesium alloy body, weather seals and revised Quick Navi Pro interface
Ruggedly built to cope effortlessly with tough assignments, the α99 sets new standards of imaging performance, creative options, user-focused ergonomics and reliability to satisfy demanding enthusiasts.
Unsurpassed imaging performance and responses
Unique to the α99, a newly developed full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor with 24.3 effective megapixels is teamed with a highly advanced BIONZ image processing engine. This powerful sensor/processor combination guarantees unprecedented levels of imaging performance with still and video shooting.
Now advanced photographers can explore the creative possibilities of full-frame imaging plus the responsiveness of Translucent Mirror Technology.
The eagerly awaited successor to the flagship α900 DSLR, the new α99 is the first Translucent Mirror camera from Sony to feature a full-frame 35mm image sensor.
The full-frame sensor’s resolving power is enhanced by a newly developed separate multi-segment optical low-pass filter. Assisted by an all-new front-end LSI, the BIONZ engine processes massive amounts of image signal data from the Exmor CMOS Sensor at very high speeds. Together with a powerful new area-specific noise reduction (NR) algorithm, this achieves a 14-bit RAW output, rich gradation and low noise.
The evolved BIONZ processor boosts maximum sensitivity range (in expanded sensitivity mode) as wide as ISO 50-25600 – a range of 9 stops. Its unprecedented processing power also enables the α99 to shoot a burst of full-resolution images at up to 6 frames per second or 10 fps in Tele-zoom high speed shooting mode.
For the first time ever, the 19-point AF system with 11 cross sensors is complemented by a multi-point focal plane phase-detection AF sensor. With no less than 102 AF points, this additional AF sensor overlays the main image sensor. Harnessing the power of Translucent Mirror Technology, this unique Dual AF System permits ultra-fast, accurate autofocusing that maintains tracking focus even if the subject leaves the 19-point AF frame.
The α99 also debuts an advanced new AF-D continuous autofocus mode that’s supremely effective with moving subjects. The 19-point AF system provides reliable depth focusing information. It’s complemented by the 102-point multi-point focal plane phase-detection AF sensor that copes effortlessly with subjects traversing the focal plane.
From launch, new AF-D mode is supported by the SAL2470Z, SAL2875, SAL50F14, SAL300F28G2, SAL70400G and SAL500F4G lenses. More lenses will be supported via future firmware updates.
As a further focusing refinement, a new AF range control function allows users to set the distance range recognised by the AF system. This smart feature significantly aids operability if you’re focusing on distant sports action through a nearby wire mesh fence.
Crafted for videographers and movie-makers
The α99 inherits the world-leading ‘cinematic DNA’ from professional movie cameras and high-end camcorders by Sony. The unmatched resolving power and sensitivity of the full-frame sensor is complemented by advanced features optimised for professional video production.
The α99 supports the needs of professional movie-makers, offering full-frame Full HD 50p/25p (switchable to 60p/24p) progressive video recording to meet AVCHD Version 2.0 specifications. As introduced on the α77, Full-time Continuous AF Movie allows smooth, non-stop tracking of moving subjects. Other movie-oriented enhancements include real-time Full HD video output via HDMI, and uninterrupted ‘dual-card’ recording using both of the camera’s media slots.
For extra convenience during movie shooting, a silent new multi-controller is easily accessible via a dial on the front of the camera body. This allows smooth, silent adjustment of exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity and metering method, shutter speed, aperture and audio record levels during Full HD video capture. Shooting stamina is tripled by partnering the camera with the new VG-C99AM Vertical Grip that houses up to three batteries in total (see below). It’s even possible to exchange batteries ‘on the fly’ without interrupting movie recording.
Audio features have also been significantly enhanced to meet the exacting needs of serious videographers. An audio level display and adjustable audio record levels are joined by a headphone jack for accurate in-the-field monitoring. The optional XLR-K1M adaptor kit adds a high-quality mono shotgun mic and pro-standard XLR connections for dependable audio acquisition.
Uncompromised handing for serious photographers
The XGA OLED Tru-Finder gives a detail-packed view of your subject, offering 100% frame coverage with exceptional brightness, contrast, clarity and resolution.
You’ll enjoy a full 100% view on the Tru-Finder screen, even if you’re shooting with a DT lens that’s optimised for cameras with an APS-C sensor. Angle of view is converted automatically for image recording and display. This viewfinder is completely compatible with the APS-C format and displays scenes using the entire finder screen.
Complementing the Tru-Finder, there’s also a three-way tiltable 1229k-dot (VGA equivalent) XtraFine LCD with WhiteMagic™ technology to boost screen brightness in outdoor conditions.
Despite its uncompromising pro-class credentials, the α99 is the world’s lightest1 35mm full-frame interchangeable-lens digital camera. A weight of just 733g (without lens and battery) is made possible by Translucent Mirror Technology, while high-rigidity magnesium alloy panels contribute to an extremely tough yet light design.
Weather-resistant seals protect against dust and moisture, while controls and buttons are ruggedized for years of unflinching operation on virtually any assignment. The camera’s stamina and reliability is underlined by a redesigned shutter block that’s tested to approximately 200,000 release cycles.
Ergonomics have been refined for a smooth, seamless workflow that doesn’t interrupt your creative focus. Enhancements include a re-designed grip, while switches and button shapes are differentiated for intuitive fingertip operation without taking an eye off your composition. There’s also a new exposure mode dial lock that prevents accidental rotation.
Further evolved from the acclaimed α700 and α900, the newly-developed Quick Navi Pro interface gives quick, intuitive one-handed access to shooting parameters.
The camera can also be operated via remote PC connection. Supported functions include switching between still/movie shooting, plus automatic transfer of still images from camera to PC for enhanced studio workflow. *Editor’s note: betcha there’s no Mac app given Sony’s historic attitude to Apple!
Designed for professionals: new lens and accessories
The full-frame imaging capabilities of the α99 make an ideal complement for the new 300mm F2.8 G SSM II (SAL300F28G2) lens. Designed for demanding sports and wildlife applications, this bright super-telephoto offers a significantly uprated optical design and improved handling compared with its predecessor. The Sony-developed Nano AR Coating on optical surfaces assures flawless still images and HD video with reduced flare and ghosting, offering enhanced contrast with crisp black, while a new LSI drive circuit offers faster, more accurate autofocus with enhanced tracking AF. The dust- and moisture-resistant design makes the lens ideal for the toughest outdoor shooting assignments.
In addition, a new wide-aperture Carl Zeiss A-mount prime lens is now under development. Optimised for superb results with the camera’s 35mm full frame image sensor, the Planar T* 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM will be available in Spring 2013.
Offered exclusively as an option for the α99, the brand-new VG-C99AM vertical grip can house and manage three batteries in total (including the camera’s own on-board battery). Resistant to dust and moisture, the grip is ideal for lengthy shooting sessions in the studio or outdoors.
The range-leading HVL-F60M is a powerful flash (GN60, in metres at ISO 100) with built-in LED light that’s ideal for creative applications with stills or movie shooting. Smart functions include wireless multi-flash ratio control and Sony’s unique Quick Shift Bounce adjustment, while operation can be controlled quickly via the flash’s intuitive Quick Navi system. Resistant to dust and moisture, the HVL-F60M comes supplied with a bounce adaptor for flash, and a colour conversion filter for use with LED lighting. Ideal for the α99 and other cameras featuring the new Multi Interface Shoe, the HVL-F60M can also be used with Auto-lock Accessory Shoe cameras via the supplied ADP-AMA Shoe Adaptor.
Compatible with 49mm and 55mm diameter lenses, the HVL-RL1 Ring Light offers highly effective LED illumination of small subjects that’s ideal for macro shooting. Its high output level (approx. 700 lx/0.3m) is approximately four times brighter than the previous model. Brightness can be adjusted steplessly for precise control of creative lighting effects. Operation can also be switched between full-ring illumination for shadowless lighting and half-ring illumination to create shadow effects. The optional FA-MA1AM Macro Light Adaptor is required when using the Ring Light with SAL30M28 or SAL50F18 lenses. Compatible with the Multi Interface Shoe of the α99, the HVL-RL1 can also be used with cameras that have an Auto-lock Accessory Shoe via the supplied ADP-AMA Shoe Adaptor.
The new XLR-K1M XLR Adaptor Kit meets the demanding audio needs of professional movie production. It provides two pro-standard XLR terminals for connecting the α99 with professional microphones and mixing consoles. Operating flexibility is maximised by MIC/LINE input selection and separate adjustment of two channel levels. The adaptor kit comes supplied with the ECM-XM1 monaural shotgun microphone, but may also be used with a wide range of professional microphones. An optional bracket is required when using the XLR-K1M with the α99.
The RMT-DSLR2 Remote Commander allows wireless shutter release for still images and start/stop control of video shooting. As well as the α99, it’s also compatible with other α A-mount and E-mount cameras that include a remote control receiver. (Our highlighting in red – this may NOT mean that it can operate video on other cameras, just that it will operate their existing remote functions – dependent perhaps on firmware updates)
Styled to reduce carrying fatigue, the LCS-BP3 Backpack is designed to meet the stringent demands of professional photographers. Its generous capacity can hold the α99 camera body plus Vertical Grip and attached telephoto zoom lens, together with 3-4 spare lenses, accessories and a 15.5” laptop.
The ADP-MAA is a new shoe adaptor that allows Multi Interface Shoe2 cameras to be used with Auto-lock Accessory Shoe accessories. Conversely, the ADP-AMA she adaptor allows Auto-lock Accessory Shoe cameras to be used with Multi Interface Shoe accessories.
The PCK-LM14 Screen Protector Semi Hard Sheet safeguards the camera’s LCD screen against dust, scratches. It’s supplied with a separate protector sheet for the top display panel.
Sony’s new SDXC UHS-I memory card, SF-64UX(64GB) with ultra-high speed interface (UHS-I) compatibility, offers significantly higher transfer speeds up to 94MB/s (read) and 43MB/s (write). The SF-64UX is ideal for burst shooting with the α99, without missing the moment. It also enables rapid data rates when transferring content including large RAW images or video files to your PC.
The new cards have been subjected to rigorous Sony testing, in order to achieve high levels of reliability and data integrity. Additionally, the new cards are water-resistant, and are designed to perform under a wide range of operating temperatures. Users can also shoot with ease knowing their photos and videos are protected thanks to Sony’s File Rescue Software* which can help recover photos and videos that may have been accidentally deleted.
(*This software is available for Sony memory media products customers through free download at www.sony.net/memorycard)
The new α99 full-frame Translucent Mirror camera from Sony is available in the UK from early November 2012.
1 Among interchangeable-lens digital cameras with a full-frame image sensor (as of 12th September 2012). According to Sony internal survey.
2 The α99 is equipped with Sony’s newly-developed Multi Interface Shoe. This is capable of accommodating various accessories for photo and movie shooting such as flash and microphones, while drawing power from the camera. It’s also compatible with Sony accessories that use the standard ISO 518 accessory shoe. The Multi Interface Shoe was developed as a common shoe for imaging products by Sony – such as digital still cameras, digital video cameras and interchangeable lens cameras – promoting compatibility among accessories and offering an enhanced shooting experience for users.
Cyber-shot™ DSC-RX1 from Sony is world’s first1 compact camera with 35mm full-frame 24.3 effective megapixel sensor
Full-frame imaging from a compact camera that’s drastically smaller and lighter than any full-frame DSLR
Exmor™ CMOS sensor with approximately 24.3 effective megapixels for flawless, detail-packed photos and Full HD video
Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm F2 prime lens; with Macro mode for 20cm minimum focusing distance
Extremely wide sensitivity range from ISO 100 – 25600
Intuitive manual controls with aperture and focus rings
New Multi Interface Shoe compatible with optional flash, electronic viewfinder, optical viewfinder etc.
The extraordinary new Cyber-shot™ DSC-RX1 from Sony offers photo enthusiasts the chance to explore the creative possibilities of full-frame imaging with a compact digital camera that fits easily in the palm of your hand.
At just 482g (with battery and memory card), it packs a 35mm full-frame sensor and wide aperture F2 fixed-focal lens into a camera body that’s perfectly proportioned for travel and street photography as well as portraits and day-to-day shooting.
Far smaller and lighter than any full-frame DSLR, the Cyber-shot™ RX1 offers superb imaging quality that’s previously been the domain of high-end professional DSLR cameras. The unified lens/body design assures razor-sharp alignment of the sensor and optical components, bringing out the full potential of the lens to deliver unprecedented image quality, right to the very edges of each frame. Full manual control options are complemented by effortlessly intuitive operation, making it easy for enthusiasts to realise their creative vision without sacrificing portability or operating comfort.
In a world first1 for digital compact cameras, the Cyber-shot™ RX1 features a 35mm full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor. With a resolution of 24.3 effective megapixels, it’s over twice the area of the APS-C sensor inside much bulkier DSLR cameras. Capable of resolving the finest image details and subtle textures, the full-frame sensor assures absolute fidelity, rich colours and an impressively broad dynamic range.
The large sensor size also helps boost the camera’s sensitivity range to a generous ISO 100 – 25600. Sensitivity can be adjusted as low as ISO 50 in expanded mode2. Similarly, ISO settings as high as 102400 can be achieved using Multi Frame Noise Reduction, allowing the Cyber-shot™ RX1 to capture natural, low noise handheld images in near-dark conditions without needing flash.
Complementing the full-frame sensor is a fast, bright Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens with a fixed focal length of 35mm – a versatile choice for portraits, street photography and everyday shooting. Derived from the German word “Sonne” (“sun”), the Sonnar name reflects the ability of the lens to capture as much light as possible. This premium lens features newly designed optics including an Advanced Aspherical (AA) glass element which contributes to the camera’s extremely compact palm-sized dimensions without sacrificing optical performance.
The lens’s wide F2 maximum aperture and 9-bladed circular aperture enable beautiful ‘bokeh’ (defocus) effects to rival professional-class DSLR camera lenses. A Macro switching ring on the lens barrel instantly shortens minimum focusing distance to just 20cm (from image plane), making the Cyber-shot™ RX1 ideal for capturing small close-up subjects with exquisite detail.
Data from the Exmor CMOS sensor is handled by the evolved BIONZ engine that also powers full-resolution burst shooting at up to 5 frames per second. The BIONZ processor can output image data in 14-bit RAW format, giving advanced users immense freedom over developing, post-processing and managing RAW files to match their personal creative vision.
Despite the camera’s extraordinarily compact dimensions, photographers are offered a virtually limitless palette of options for creative expression. The Cyber-shot™ RX1 also offers a full range of manual control modes, just as you’d expect from a no-compromise DSLR camera.
Dedicated lens rings allow fingertip control of focus and aperture, while a DSLR-style Focus mode dial on the front of the camera allows easy switching between focus modes. Top-mounted exposure compensation and mode dials are ergonomically placed for easy operation, while custom function and AEL buttons fall comfortably to hand without interrupting your creative flow.
Accessed via the camera’s pro-style control dial and cross keys, Quick Navi mode allows fast, intuitive adjustment of camera settings which is ideal when using the camera with an optional viewfinder. In addition, the camera also features a memory recall (MR) mode that allows storage and instant recall of up to 3 sets of camera settings.
Other refinements include a MF Assist function that magnifies a portion of your image to simplify fine focus adjustments. There’s also a pro-style peaking function that highlights sharply-focused areas of the image on screen – adding the optional FDA-EV1MK electronic viewfinder kit allows even greater manual focusing precision.
Pixel Super Resolution Technology allows magnification of image size without sacrificing pixel count, maintaining far higher quality than achievable with conventional digital zoom. The camera also features a Smart Teleconverter function that crops a central portion of the image sensor, boosting effective magnification by 1.4x or 2x. Thanks to the full-frame sensor’s extremely high pixel count, even zoomed and cropped images maintain generous amounts of fine detail when blown up at large print sizes.
In addition to flawless stills, the Cyber-shot™ RX1 can capture high-quality, low-noise Full HD movie footage at a choice of 50p/60p or 25p/24p (progressive) frame rates. 24p recording enables the Cyber-shot RX1 to transform everyday scenes into film-like movies, making it easy to record beautifully atmospheric video in very low lighting. The camera also provides a full complement of PASM exposure modes to give photographers absolute creative flexibility during video shooting.
Artistically ambitious photographers can even fine-tune images with a choice of 13 Creative Styles, plus a wide range of inspiring ‘PC-free’ Picture Effect treatments. Furthermore, wider compositional possibilities are offered by Auto HDR and D-Range Optimiser, bracket shooting (Exposure, DRO or White Balance) and Auto HDR shooting modes. The camera even offers a Digital Level Gauge that indicates camera pitch and camera roll on the LCD screen for straight, even horizons and architectural shots.
Shooting possibilities for stills and video are broadened by the camera’s Multi Interface Shoe3 that accepts a growing range of accessories. Options include a powerful flash, electronic viewfinder, optical viewfinder, clip-on LCD monitor. Also available are a high-quality jacket case, lens hood and thumb grip for sure, comfortable handling.
Learn more about official accessories by Sony for the Cyber-shot™ RX1 here:
The Cyber-shot™ RX1 also comes preinstalled with PlayMemories Home (Lite Edition) software, allowing easy image transfers to a PC for managing, editing and printing. Available for free download, a full version of PlayMemories Home adds movie editing and disc burning.
Also available as a free download, PlayMemories Studio allows game-like editing of photos and videos on PlayStation®3. Images can be shared easily via PlayMemories Online, the cloud-based sharing service from Sony that simplifies ‘any time, any place’ viewing on a wide range of connected devices.
The new Cyber-shot™ RX1 full-frame digital compact camera from Sony is available in Europe from December 2012.
1 Among compact digital still cameras. According to Sony research, as of September 12, 2012.
2 Recordable dynamic range is reduced at sensitivity levels below ISO100.
3 The Cyber-shot™ RX1 is equipped with Sony’s newly-developed Multi Interface Shoe. This is capable of accommodating various accessories for photo and movie shooting such as flash and microphones, while drawing power from the camera. It is also compatible with Sony accessories that use the standard ISO 518 accessory shoe. The Multi Interface Shoe was developed as a common shoe for imaging products by Sony – such as digital still cameras, digital video cameras and interchangeable lens cameras – promoting compatibility among accessories and offering an enhanced shooting experience for users.
According to Sonyalpharumours, on Wednesday Sony will not only announce the Alpha 99 full frame SLT, but will reveal a compact bodied full frame fixed lens model with the same 24 megapixel sensor, called the RX1 and taking the concept of the RX100 zoom ‘one inch’ format model to a new height (photo – from Sonyalpharumours).
It’s a retro-appeal camera, with a mode dial, an over-ride dial, lens apertures set round the lens, a conventional hot shoe and a a manual focus ring which doubles as a fast means to switch between two AF ranges, 20-35cm and 35cm to infinity. It has no viewfinder, just a fixed positon rear screen, but apparently will have EVF and optical finder attachments.
Inside Sony, I think there’s been some serious divisional competition between the former Minolta Alpha group and the more powerfully connected Cyber-shot team. All the indicators are that sometime earlier this year the two divisions were put into a competing situation and there may ultimately be one winner, one loser. That’s how Sony culture is structured, according to every insider view I have heard since Sony acquired the Minolta camera brand in 2006. Groups, departments, teams and individuals are weighed against each other as well as against their industry rivals. The winners are rewarded with promotion and bigger budgets, the losers have to survive with diminished resources. It’s a deliberately competitive environment.
I believe the Cyber-shot team got hold of this sensor to compete head-on with the NEX team. This is part of Sony’s internal camera design Olympics and only Gold counts. The RX100 has been a sell-out success and given the division the authority to take Cyber-shot models to places where the DSC-R1 was once heading before Alpha and NEX arrived on the scene and shut that line of development down. They kept the RX100 under wraps to spring it on the world – including other Sony camera teams – as a blockbuster surprise. Now they have done the same with the RX1. Where next?
But, will a camera like this sell? Did it ever sell in the era of film – and why should anything be different today, give or take temporary fashions for the limitations of retro-style specifications?
In fact there were plenty of cameras with lens specifications around 35mm f/2 over the years, but very few survived after zoom lens compacts arrived. The era of Hi-Matics, Canonets, Yashica or Ricoh 35s saw apertures up to f/1.7 and focal lengths ranging from 35mm to 45mm. By the time 20 years of zoom lens SLRs and 10 years of zoom compacts had destroyed that market, it had moved in favour of boutique level pocktables like the Contax T2, retro Rollei 35, Minox 35 and their copies. The 35mm focal length won the day in the smaller bodies, but f/2.8 replaced faster apertures to keep size and weight down.
Minolta broke away with the titanium-bodied TC-1, one of the most expensive such cameras ever made. It had a 28mm f/3.5 G-series lens designed with a large rear element and a concave front surface, using new aspherical technology. Instead of a variable aperture, it used perfectly round laser cut Waterhouse stops which eliminated diffraction effects. This proved a valuable precursor to digital camera lenses later on, needing the same technology for ultra-short focal lengths and small sensors.
But it was left to Konica reintroduce the rangefinder-style body with a fixed 35mm f/2 lens, in the form of the Hexar 35, another very expensive and beautifully made design. The Hexar was the fin-de-siècle failure that bad design detail ensured it would be. No-one wanted a leaf shutter camera – even one with a near-silent slow winding mode for filmset and concert shooting – that was limited to 1/250th top shutter speed. Leaf shutters were perfect for synchro-sun flash, but plenty of focal plane shutters could do 1/250th. If the camera had been equipped with a 1/500th or 1/1000th top speed its hybrid electronic control system and Aperture Priority basis would still have missed the mark. Konica went on to show a full Hexar RF Leica M mount system at photokina 2002, finishing it off with some revolutionary additions at the same event in 2004, by which time Minolta and Konica had merged.
Within days of the close of photokina, the Hexar 35 and the RF system were discontinued. Whatever feedback they had received, the merged Konica Minolta dropped the Konica brand and with it the highest end Konica cameras. The fact was they had not sold, and had not sold profitably.
Which could be why the Cyber-shot division is aiming for the sky with the RX1, and pricing it at a rumoured $2799.
That’s over £2,000 in British money with VAT, for a fixed lens camera – even though it will shoot 5fps, 24 megapixels, and has a Zeiss Sonnar lens. It may also be the first time a Sonnar has covered this angle at f/2, previous incarnations have either been f/2.8 at 63° coverage or been longer relative focal lengths at f/2 (I stand to be corrected on this – the Contax G system used a 35mm f/2 Planar).
To that $2799 you can add a viewfinder and possibly other accessories. This is one camera for which I would expect to see both 0.7X wide angle and 1.5X tele lens converters (24.5mm and 52.5mm equivalents). Combined with intelligent cropping and resampling, the 24 megapixel full frame should also offer 1.4 or 1.5X and 2X digital tele, or perhaps a variable digital zoom, and a likely 3X/2X/1.4X range of video crops. Then again, Sony may be playing very clean and avoiding these options even if they would improve the experience of a fixed 35mm lens for many users.
I have to say that at this point, Sony has left me behind. It’s neat focal length in the Leica system because it’s been around in optically acceptable form and fast maximum apertures since the 1960s.
The classic lens sets for 35mm full frame started with the 35/50/85-90mm trio. This was because so many rangefinder cameras used interlens shutters and interchangeable front groups rather than entire lens in front of focal plane shutters. Anything shorter than 35mm was expensive and huge, anything longer than 90mm couldn’t be focused very reliably. So we ended up with launches like the Leica CL – just a 40mm and 90mm lens pair. But Leica had moved on long before in the M-series, starting with the M2 (35mm widest lens) alongside the M3 (50mm, anything wider needing ‘spectacles’ or a separate finder), then the M4-P which for the first time put 28mm on board. So the Minolta CLE Leica-mount kit appeared with 28/40/90mm as its kit, and fifteen years later the Contax G system came with 28/45/90 as an alternative to the more affordable 35/90. Konica offered their RF straight out with a 28/50/90mm set.
Fuji’s XPro-1 has been a success, and its launch lens set is 27/52.5/90mm. Now there’s a big gap from 18mm to 35mm (actual focal lengths) and they will fill it with a 35mm-equivalent. But would you want that on its own? I know someone who has a Leica M9 with just a 35mm f/2. That was a budget decision. Given enough money they would have the 24mm, 28mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm too!
Well-mannered and perfect though it has every chance of being, a 35mm f/2 on full frame is as uninspiring for me as the Fujfilm X100’s fixed 23mm f/2 on APS-C was. It’s a good focal length for small groups indoors, general house and garden shots, and street candids. It’s too short for conventional portraiture and too long for environmental editorial people pix. It’s easy to use and fairly boring.
Most of all, it is extremely easy to MAKE. The history of photo gear is one where lenses with a 60-65° angle of view have been good. Unlike early 28mms, 35mms were OK. The same angle of view on any compact digital, of any sensor size, is still good and many are f/2, even if they don’t offer the same lazy solution to defining the centre of interest in a shot.
I do not need to spend $2799 to get what the RX1 appears to offer. I didn’t even want it in the NEX-7 and have never felt tempted to buy the 24mm f/2.
I think, perhaps, that after a long time of ignoring photographers Sony finally listened. They may have listened to the wrong ones. The lens enthusiasts of dPreview represent a tiny minority. Those who will spend nearly $3k on a fixed lens compact – even with full frame – are even fewer.
Now, when do I get to apply for a job selling it into China? There is one place with new buying habits to match this camera perfectly!
Whether you like it or not – and some aspects are going to be useful – Sony is rolling out a whole new generation of gear including advances in digital imaging. This is a long statement made at a press conference. It would take a long time to edit it, so here’s their text in full.
Sony Accelerates Revitalisation of Electronics Business by Enhancing User Experiences with New Product Offensive
Sony Corporation’s President and Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai unveils an array of Xperia smartphones, a new Xperia-branded Tablet, VAIO PC, Wi-Fi camera, NFC-enabled audio devices, new applications, new musical partnership, a Book of Spells and a showstopping 84-inch BRAVIA 4KTV at IFA 2012
Sony Corporation (“Sony”) today unveiled a portfolio of advanced next-generation products which will help accelerate the revitalisation of the electronics business.
Kazuo Hirai, Sony Corporation’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, speaking at Sony Europe’s press conference at the IFA electronics show in Berlin, launched a range of compelling products – each emphasising Sony’s stated strategic focus on Mobile, Digital Imaging and Gaming.
“This is an extraordinary company going through extraordinary times. It forces us to confront difficult realities and make hard business decisions. We must look at ourselves honestly and hold true to the values and purpose of Sony. I am determined to do this with a laser-like focus, speed and execution,” said Hirai. “The products I unveil today will show Sony’s long-standing ambition to deliver what customers value – a simpler, easier, more entertaining and user-friendly experience.”
The range of new products announced in Berlin includes three new Xperia smartphones – one featured in the forthcoming James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ – a new splash proof Tablet, a new hybrid slate/laptop VAIO PC, a new NEX camera with built in Wi-Fi enabling feature-adds post purchase, and enhanced NFC enabled headphones and audio devices.
Sony also unveiled a stunning 84-inch BRAVIA 4K TV, promising a totally immersive experience and building on Sony’s acknowledged professional expertise in 4K with acclaimed broadcast camera the CineAlta F65 and 4K cinema projection system.
Hirai vowed that each product would reflect the ‘One Sony’ ambition, the organisation’s drive to deliver technically-advanced products and compelling consumer experiences through greater synergies across all Sony’s businesses from electronics to games, movies and music.
“As “One Sony” we are joined together by a single vision, which I define with one particular Japanese word – Kando. It means to move people emotionally. Sony will bring a smile to the faces of a global audience” said Hirai.
Mobile devices are the gateway to Sony’s user experience. Adding to our acclaimed Xperia smartphones for providing premium entertainment experiences, Sony Tablets will be brought to market under the Xperia brand as of September 2012 to expand these great mobile experiences to the tablet arena.
The latest Sony mobile devices, including Xperia smartphones, Tablets and VAIO PCs, will boast Sony’s media applications, with the new interface designed to enhance the user experience in high picture and sound quality. It will enable users to enjoy and share music, photos, and movies in a simple and intuitive way. These features will be available across new Xperia smartphones, Xperia Tablet and selected VAIO PCs.
Furthermore, the new Xperia smartphones and VAIO PCs promise to bring consumers the ultimate cross-device connectivity. Through Sony’s One Touch function, which incorporates NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, users can easily and instantly enjoy their music and photos across an array of NFC enabled Sony devices by simply touching one device to the other without the need for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi set-up.
Introducing the new products, Hirai added: “Individual Sony products will entice and inspire people. But what’s also important is that by connecting and combining hardware, network services and applications, we will provide a truly remarkable and compelling experience.”
Sony’s mobile products are pioneering new ways to capture great digital pictures, whilst delivering an enhanced user experience through further, deeper convergence of hardware, content and services. The new NEX-5R model is the latest Digital Imaging product to deliver enhanced usability.
The NEX-5R compact system camera – with built in Wi-Fi – allows users to check the image, adjust camera exposure and control the shutter wirelessly from their smartphone. This makes it ideal for taking posed family pictures via the timer, where the image can be checked on the smartphone before the pose is broken. It also boasts “Fast Hybrid AF” giving DSLR-like focussing responses when capturing fast-moving action.
The NEX-5R is the first camera compatible with PlayMemories Camera Apps, a service for downloading new apps such as “Time-Lapse” and “Cinematic Photo” directly to the Wi-Fi enabled camera.
Sony is also introducing the new ‘wearable’ video camera, the HDR-AS15 with ‘ExmorR’ CMOS Image Sensor and SteadyShot image, great for skydiving or mountain biking.
This autumn, Sony Computer Entertainment is due to launch Wonderbook, creating a multi-dimensional world using PlayStation Eye and augmented reality technology. It’s an experience like nothing else. The first Wonderbook title will be Wonderbook: Book of Spells, created in collaboration with J.K Rowling.
Detailing the product offensive at IFA, the Sony President and CEO highlighted the following innovations:
The integration of Sony Mobile Communications earlier this year was an important step for Sony. The company launched the first Sony smartphones to market earlier this year – the Xperia NXT (NEXT) series.
The next introduction is the Xperia T, Xperia V and Xperia J, building on the acclaimed arc design. They will be brought to the market over the next few months.
Xperia T is the new global flagship model that delivers the best high definition experience in a smartphone to date. It has a 4.6inch display powered by Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA Engine. Consumers can watch videos shot in Full 1080-pixel HD. The 13 mega-pixel fast-capture camera goes from sleep to snap in an instant with a single key press. The most amazing feature is how easily consumers can connect Xperia T to other devices to enjoy their content – with just one touch.
Xperia V is LTE enabled for super-fast network performance. It also comes with the highest level of water resistance in a smartphone, so users can continue using their Xperia V, come rain or come sunshine.
Xperia J is an eye-catching combination of stylish design and a stand-out screen size at a competitive price point.
Xperia Tablet S
The new Xperia Tablet combines a splash-proof body with high quality sound and a thinner, lighter design than its predecessor. It also offers a new app called ‘Socialife’ which enables users to enjoy SNS and news feeds in one viewer with a magazine-like layout. Together with new covers, stands and dock speaker, it is a communications device that will bring new style and fun into your life and appeal to customers of all ages and lifestyles. Running a NVIDIA® Tegra® 3 quad-core processor and Android 4.0.3 platform, it’s got all the power consumers will need to enjoy their favourite media, apps and games.
VAIO™ Duo 11
VAIO Duo 11 is a unique, Surf-Slider design hybrid PC which allows smooth sliding between slate mode and keyboard mode, ideal for being on the move. It features a thin, compact body with high performance, and a sophisticated stylus for the easy capture of handwritten digital notes, maximising the touch capability of Windows 8.
VAIO™ Tap 20
VAIO Tap 20, designed to leverage Windows 8, is a 20-inch, tabletop PC which tilts from desktop to lay-flat style. It can be a conventional desk top PC for personal use or a multi-media device – if used flat – for family use, for everything from playing board games to music editing or reading.
Audio Visual: ‘One Sony’ brings professional know-how and greater connectivity to consumer experiences
TV has always been part of Sony’s DNA, a symbol of constant innovation. It is the one product that still connects family and friends through shared experiences, more than any other.
Sony’s first 84-inch BRAVIA 4KTV
The new Sony 84-inch BRAVIA 4KTV boasts a 4K (3840 x 2160) LCD panel in the industry’s largest inch class (*1) and incorporates Sony’s ‘4K X-Reality PRO’ super-resolution high picture quality engine, meaning users will be able to reproduce a variety of content – including movies, TV programs, photos and games – to beautiful 4K picture quality ready to enjoy on the stunning 84-inch screen. This formidable combination seamlessly delivers a high-resolution large-screen picture with high-quality powerful sound to provide consumers with an immersive experience, unlike anything offered by existing televisions. The new BRAVIA 4K TV will be available worldwide, from the end of 2012.
*1: As of August 29, 2012.
Sony continues to take a lead role in advancing 4K technologies and is playing a leading role in professional 4K content creation through the CineAlta ‘F65’ camera, capable of shooting 4K content and beloved by leading film makers, and also the 4K digital cinema system used in the professional field. In the world of consumer electronics, the 4K home theatre projector for family use has been extremely well received since its launch last year.
The launch of the 84-inch 4K BRAVIA TV demonstrates the new and exciting consumer home-experiences made possible through professional technologies, advanced through the company’s ‘One Sony’ approach to hardware and content innovation.
HMZ-T2 Personal 3D Viewer
Lighter and more comfortable than its predecessor, the all-new Personal 3D Viewer from Sony is a head-mounted, High Definition 2D and 3D personal display with virtual 5.1 surround sound. It’s perfect for movies and gaming, with twin OLED screens that display vivid, super-sharp images (with zero cross-talk interference) to absorb consumers in a truly personal experience.
The new MDR-1 headphones are the result of collaboration between Sony Music artists and Sony engineers to deliver sound quality that accurately reproduces the original intentions of the musicians. The MDR-1 RBT is NFC enabled, and carries Sony’s One-touch function making it easy to share music across a range of NFC enabled devices by instantly setting up a wireless connection between devices, with just one touch. There is no need for any Bluetooth or Wi-Fi set up.
SRS-BTM8 wireless NFC Bluetooth speaker
The SRS-BTM8 portable NFC Bluetooth wireless speaker from Sony lets you enjoy music from your smartphone or tablet in high quality audio, anywhere in the house. With its built in One-touch function from Sony, with just one touch to the top of the speaker with any NFC-enabled Xperia smartphone – including Xperia T and Xperia V smartphones from Sony – music will be streamed instantly. There is no need for Bluetooth set-up.
Partnership with Berliner Philharmoniker and Berlin Phil Media
Sony has extended its partnership with the world renowned Berliner Philharmoniker, and Berlin Phil Media, which offers the “Digital Concert Hall” streaming service. For the past two years, Sony has video-streamed Berliner Philharmoniker’s musical performances for customers worldwide to enjoy on Sony’s home entertainment products. Under this new partnership, Sony will also supply professional products, which incorporate its key technologies, whilst also providing technical support for the creation and streaming of Berliner Philharmoniker content through the service. This partnership will further enhance collaboration and innovation around audio development, and produce feedback which will be invaluable for Sony.
Sony HDR-AS15 action-cam
Ideal for sports lovers, the HDR-AS15 is a new type of camera; a ‘wearable’ video camera. It features Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilisation technology to deliver stunningly smooth footage which is ideal for filming sports scenes such as sky diving, mountain biking or snowboarding.
Equipped with built-in Wi-Fi, consumers can remotely control this video camera from smartphones and upload the recorded data online immediately. It also features a 170° wide angle Carl Zeiss lens.
List of all products and services launched at IFA 2012 for the UK market
BRAVIA 84” 4K TV
Head Mounted Display HMZ-T2
AV Receiver STR-DA5800ES
Speaker System SS-NA2ES, SS-NA5ES, SS-NA8ES, SA-NA9ES
VPL-HW50ES Home Cinema 3D projector
Wireless NFC Bluetooth speaker SRS-BTM8, SRS-BTV5
Headphones MDR-1 (MDR-1R/1RBT/1RNC)
NEX-5R – Wi-Fi enabled camera
Action Cam HDR-AS15– personal camera
PlayMemories Series (new Camera Apps functionality)
Xperia Splash/Water-proof Smartphone
Xperia Tablet S
Music Unlimited – New Subscription Tier, “Access” for PCs and PlayStation(R)3
VAIO™ Duo 11 (Slider hybrid PC)
VAIO™ Tap 20 (Tabletop PC)
VAIO touch range (VAIO™ Duo 11, VAIO™ Tap 20, VAIO T Series 13, VAIO L Series)
The first thing that is likely to strike you about Sony’s one-inch sensor Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is size. It’s tiny, slightly smaller in body than the Nikon 1 series interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras using an identical size 2.7X factor, one-inch or 13.2 x 8.8mm sensor.
This just a fraction over half the area of a standard APS-C sensor, and where Nikon has chosen to have 10 megapixels of active imaging plus others unused or devoted to phase-detect focus on the silicon, Sony has opted for 20 megapixels.
At first this seems excessive, until the performance of other new smaller sensor cameras is considered. The Fuji X-10, for example, has a 12 megapixel sensor measuring 8.8 x 6.6mm and achieves a respectable balance of sharpness and noise-levels. The RX100 has a slightly lower pixel density. Compared to the Canon G12 it’s four times the sensor size and twice the sensel size.
The 1.0 type sensor also gives just that little bit more creative control over depth of field. With the usual third to two-thirds inch standard sensors in pocketable compacts, the lens must be used wide open at any given focal length to provide a degree of differential focus. To avoid sharpness loss, most such cameras can not be stopped down to settings like f/11 and sometimes have a choice between two apertures only, wide open and something moderate like f/8.
The Fuji X10 zoom only stops down to f/11 but offers a full continuous range of settings. So does the RX100, its 10.4-37.1mm lens ranging from f/1.8 to f/4.9 wide open but limited to f/11 minimum regardless of zoom setting. Since even f/11 can produce some diffraction-limit related softening, its performance around f/5.6 is critical. This would be the setting I would choose for routine Aperture-priority shooting.
At such a setting, the low ISO quality of the RX100 can be exploited. Unlike any of the Sony NEX models, the little RX100 has been given user control of maximum and minimum Auto ISO limits. The full auto range is from 125 to 6400. Manually set ISO can be extended downwards to either 80 or 100 (but these settings just overexpose the image and compensate in conversion). The camera seems to have been developed as well as manufactured in Japan, and the firmware and menu system resembles the mainstream Alpha DSLR/SLT camera line rather than the mirrorless NEX. Editor’s note: having sold my original RX100 I bought another, the second although made at the same date, is made in China. It seems either better or no worse.
The shutter is speeded to 1/2000th which is not a very fast high speed for a camera capable of 10 frames a second action bursts (or 2.5fps normal continuous shooting). The longest exposure possible is 30 seconds. By whatever means, aperture or shutter, Sony allow control to within 1/3rd EV step and compensation to ±3EV, but AE Bracketing is limited to three frames at either ±0.3 or ±0.6EV.
Control over settings is handled by a single top mode dial, a shutter release with power zoom lever to the front, a rear Control Wheel with four cardinal point click functions, four further surrounding buttons, and a Control Ring set round the lens bezel. This can be silent or make click sounds to mark setting changes but lacks physical resistance or detents. It doubles as a fine focus ring when the camera is set to manual focus, aided by focus peaking and on-screen magnification. Its action is very smooth indeed, and it can be operated easily by a single finger from either hand.
Real photo – the film and lens are entirely hidden behind the RX100 but imaged by its close focus ability at 10.4mm
Considering the 101 x 58mm footprint of the body, everything is designed efficiently to allow a 3 inch rear screen using 1.2k dots and an additional white-light augmenting RGB to improve sunny day use. It’s not a touch screen, nor is it articulated or hinged. But you will touch it, for sure… a cloth to wipe off your thumbprints is an essential accessory. It appears to be glass, but may just be a hard coated plastic layer, something with which Sony has a bad history.
Actual size next to a CF card, which this camera of course does not use – it takes SD or Memory Stick Pro Duo.
The new small battery type NP-BX1 allows 330 shots – better than many high pixel count consumer DSLRs and mirrorless models now – and can only be charged in the camera itself, via any USB 5v source and the supplied Micro USB connector cable. This is not a standard Mini USB, just as the Micro HDMI (cable not supplied) is not a commonly found fitting.
Against the disadvantage of in-camera charging you can set in-car charging, laptop or phone supply charging, and the camera’s ability to run without a battery installed when connected to its supplied AC charger. Both third party lith-ion cells and third party external chargers can be found on eBay. Anything which offers a standard, powered USB connection can charge the RX100.
The British charger is an old warhorse. The US charger is a neat monobloc transformer half this size with folding AC mains pins. This kludge is bigger and heavier than the camera…
A full charge takes 155 minutes using the charger with its high level USB-power output, but may take longer through a PC USB port or devices providing minimal USB power. You can leave it plugged in to USB all the time as the charge cycle is cut off when an orange charging light in the on/off switch extinguishes. When the camera is switched on to connect to the computer as Mass Storage (etc), this light turns green. It is possible to use the RX100 without the battery installed, connected to the charger.
In the box, you get no software, only an instruction manual which covers the bare bones. It seems to be assumed that what Sony call the best ‘professional’s compact’ ever will be bought by experienced digital camera users. Nearly all the functions on the RX100 from sweep panorama to HDR and noise reducing multishot modes are found on other cameras, and the location and nomenclature of all functions is at least familiar. Download links are given for a PDF identical to the bare manual, or a web-page based version with colour illustrations which is far better but can’t be downloaded.
A wrist strap is supplied, along with two neat cord and leatherette toggles to attach a regular camera neckstrap, as the body has two almost microscopic strap lugs. Nothing other than the very fine cords of Sony’s strap or strapholders would be likely to fit.
The body is solidly made and all access doors seal well, but it’s not resistant to anything wet, dusty or involving hard surfaces and heights. The lens’s rear glass is located very close to the sensor, and zooming appears to move only the middle and front groups. This should make it dust-free for life. Time will tell, and if any dust ever does get on the sensor, it will need a factory repair. But it looks to be designed so that will never happen.
For the professional user, the big appeal of this camera is its invisibility. Only 36mm thick with the lens collapsed, it’s just a fraction fatter and smaller than an iPhone, and with focusing down to under two inches there’s hardly anything it can’t capture. Users may criticise the 28-100mm equivalent focal length range, preferring 24mm if possible, but the focal length of the zoom is stated after allowing for some strong in-camera distortion corrections at the wide end.
To achieve a 28mm field of view (73°) for an in-camera JPEG, the corrections must deal with a very high level of barrel distortion. The raw file is uncorrected, and shows a diagonal field of view closer to that of a 24mm (85°). This may explain why Sony’s own information has claimed both 24mm and 28mm as the widest angle, when the stated focal length and sensor size clearly equate to 28mm. My measurements from the two image versions below indicate that if the correct equivalent is 28mm, the uncorrected diagonal angle is equivalent to a 24.8mm. Either way the RX100 should not be criticised if you could be happy with a new Canon EOS M – 1.6X sensor, 18-55mm lens, that’s a 28.8mm widest limit before applying Adobe Lens Profile corrections which will probably reduce the true angle to a 31mm.
And that of course applies to almost all wide angle lenses except the Sony NEX E 16mm f/2.8, which has pincushion not barrel distortion and therefore does not lose any of its diagonal angle (for that is how lens angles are measured) when corrected. There is an inbuilt profile for the latest ACR and Lightroom, but unlike other Adobe Lens Profiles, you can not adjust or turn off the disortion control. Apply the profile does not move any pixels, it simply corrects vignetting and CA. These programs are reading metadata in the raw file to apply the geometric correction automatically and you can’t disable it. To see the full field of view of the lens at its 10.4mm focal length, you must use a processor like Iridient Raw Developer (Mac only) which ignores the instructions.
Above: in-camera fully corrected JPEG at 10.4mm, and uncorrected raw conversion (by Iridient Raw Developer) showing full view angle of the lens before removing the high level of barrel distortion. Just move your cursor over the image to see the change. Adobe programs prevent the removal of the camera’s automatic correction – you can’t get to the ‘wide’ version.
When shooting video in 16:9 format with stabilisation set to Standard (optical) or Off, the lens range is trimmed to 29-105mm equivalent, and the image is cropped only slightly on pressing the Movie button. If you set Active stabilisation for video, optical stabilisation is replaced by pixel shift electronic stabilisation on the sensor. The crop is to 0.87X of the normal video field (measured here), meaning that the effective focal length range for Active video is 33-120mm. This 0.87X factor is exactly the same as the NEX-7 video crop factor.
The RX100 can be concealed in your hand and when used, with no eye-level viewfinder and composition on the rear screen instead, you look like any cameraphone user or tourist. In fact you are capturing what could be a highly detailed 20 megapixel image suitable for double page magazine or newspaper repro.
This is, of course, also a camera which won’t get you thrown out of sports stadiums or concert venues despite its ability to capture 50/60p HD1080 video with good quality stereo sound, and to capture full resolution JPEG still frames during video (17 or 24Mbps, not 28Mbps) without interruption. Writing the JPEG takes some time, parallel to video writing, and a faster SDHC or MS Pro Duo card is recommended. It can record AVCHD-2 format movies at up to 28 megabits per second, with AF during video and a good degree of setting control including manual exposure. It can not capture raw still files during filming. There is a faint click sound only during the video.
As for the quality of results, the lens may be letting the sensor down slightly; although very high in resolution even wide open, corners can lose detail because the focus plane is far from flat. Bright lights or overexposed details can produce a visible flare or glow, it’s possible to get purple fringes. Against this you must set pixel-crisp sharpness wide open, at any focal length, in many shots.
The exposure over-ride is excellent, and the screen really gives an exact view of what you are doing. Here, minus 2 stops was needed. This is at ISO 125, 1/25th at f/5.0 at 17mm (45mm equivalent) focal length. The original file has perfect detail corner to corner – every leaf sharp.
At the best – ISO 80 to 125, stopped down just one full step from full aperture – the RX100 can match or better the typical output of a 21 megapixel full frame DSLR with 24-105mm lens. At the worst it’s better than any smaller sensor compact, especially if the 10 megapixel JPEG shooting option is chosen or the file size is reduced to match a typical 12-16 megapixel 2/3rds inch sensor image.
One of my first tests, wide open at f/4.9 at 37.1mm and auto set to ISO 500, in camera JPEG. Just lovely colour and tone, perfect WB, perfect auto exposure. An early fallen leaf.
High ISO results are encouraging – using ISO 800 or 1600 should be no barrier to large clean reproductions, 3200 and 6400 remain clean in good light with detailed subjects but show coarse mottled grain in defocused areas with low light. Multishot modes are similar to NEX and can greatly improve results, but for my tests I stuck to raw files (though all the examples shown here are from in-camera JPEG) and single shot modes. Also, with f/1.8 apparently as sharp as most lenses well stopped down and having plenty of depth of field, I have tended to use low ISO settings in conditions where I’d set my Alpha 77 to ISO 800.
This shot was taken at 1/100th at f/1.8 at ISO 125, just because with this camera you CAN – no need for high ISO when you have f/1.8 at 10.4mm. But how about lens quality, how about depth of field? Take a look – all clips from the in-camera JPEG:
You can see the tendency to flare around light sources, and remember – this is an optically corrected image. Look at this in raw, and the purple fringes on those lights are the most colourful thing in the shot. This is from the middle of the frame.
Here’s the extreme right hand up to the very edge. Remember, it’s a 28mm f/1.8 equivalent.
Here’s the left hand, further away, a little bit in from the edge to catch the best detailed target.
And here is the bit you expect to be awful, more distant trees against the sky. Not bad for f/1.8?
Active video stabilisation is pixel-shift electronic, still stabilisation and standard video are in-lens optical. Both work well and the electronic variety is particularly good at dealing with small movements of your hand when holding such a small device for filming. Video quality is a match for any HD1080 DSLR, with a true 50p or 60p (USA) frame rate. The RX100 also has full user control over ISO, shutter speed, aperture and manual focus during video; the shutter-release zoom lever provides a smooth slow fixed speed zoom during filming. Beyond the 3.6X optical range, further digital zooming drops sharpness and can not be recommended. The point where digital takes over is well defined by a pause in zoom travel but you can not disable digital zoom to 14X maximum.
ISO 3200, 1/30th at f/1.8, 10.4mm, very low yellow pub light.
100% clip of in-camera 3200 JPEG – maybe a bit rough, but not bad at all…
White balance is generally well optimised, exposure is less predictable in difficult conditions. The multi-zone metering and focusing settings can produce unexpected results, spot and single point choices may not do any better as they will favour just the targeted tone. Access to +/- compensation is rapid. It can be assigned to the ring round the lens. This control ring is smooth in action and works well for adjusting exposure while viewing the rear screen.
Faults or flaws
The uncorrected image has fairly strong CA, which in defocused zones (especially that critical phase between sharp and truly out of focus) can create purple fringes on a large scale. The camera software turns these into white glow. Slightly defocused detail, especially if brightly lit beyond the clipping range of the sensor, can produce unpleasant bright fringes which are impossible to remove. Very bright areas even when well focused tend to flare into their surroundings.
I don’t really want to show what the fully lit bits of lichen at minimum focus look like – the highlights flare a fair amount.
Dynamic range is good, but not exceptional. Highlights clip readily, and recovery in either Raw Developer or IDC v4 did not pull in missing detail, it just darkened the value of a sharply clipped high bit. Though ISO 80 and 100 provide finer grain, they are less use than ISO 125 or 200 in contrasty light or with flash, as they clip more. Highlight colour recovery and use of DRO can produce some very odd effects. Editor’s note: since this original review, ACR/LR has been updated to process the raw files, and this is one reason I’ve bought an RX100 for the second time. I can now tames some of the lens and dynamic range issues very effectively.
At minimum focus, the aberrations get worse and overall sharpness is reduced, especially around the wide angle and two or three inches working distance with the lens wide open. It is easy enough to get know the lens, and its substantial sweet spot (almost anything not close-up, not contrasty or with patches of extreme overexposure). Having said that, you can also obtain stunning close ups at 10.4mm:
Click on this, and you can download the full size (probably crunched a bit from Level 10 JPEG by WordPress) image file. You will see a world of detail to amaze you and some fascinating aberrations and artefacts as well – perfect in a way, imperfect no doubt, but a wonderful thing to be able to do with a camera so small you can get it down into the a subject like grass. f/11, 10.4mm, hand-held, 1/40th at ISO 125, ACR processing.
High ISO JPEGs look clean in good light with hard detail. They look very mottled and mushy in darker softly focus areas of smooth tone. You may want to avoid using 3200 or 6400, but remember – the lens is f/1.8 to f/4.9, covering a range which is typically represented by an f/3.5 to f/5.6. At the wider to middle end, there is a two-stop advantage fading to a third-stop at the tele setting. If you stick to the wide angle end, you can use ISO 800 with as much success as 3200 would achieve in a DSLR, and pretty well the same depth of field too.
Design – the most annoying single thing is the pop-up flash which sits exactly where you are likely to hold the camera body at the left hand end. You will just have to learn not to hold it that way! That’s a penalty paid for such a small body. The tripod bush is also off centre to the lens. This only matters for specialised multi shot assembly or macro stepping.
Does it work?
Yes! The RX100 is actually a great little companion camera, and after getting it, I stopped using my NEX-5n kit for casual everyday snaps. The RX100 lives in my wallet beltpack or a carefully emptied and cleaned-out pocket, wrapped in a microfibre cloth. I may shoot a few pix or a video clip, and every day, I just connect the camera to my iMac and use iMovie to Archive the entire media contents. This copies all movies and also all stills. I then format the card before the next use, and the camera is always fully charged when I pick it up off the desk.
My best pictures are every bit as a good as a typical NEX-5n with 18-55mm shot, my worst results are better than most consumer pocket cameras and no worse than the worst NEX shots. You can take bad pictures with any camera! My videos are as good as any of the NEX or Alpha models so far, and streets ahead of Canon, even including Canon DSLRs used by professionals. I would give the Nikon D800 videos the edge over RX100, and NEX-7 or Alpha 77 videos equal status. All are far more detailed and crisp than Canon’s HD1080, yet that is now a bit of an industry standard. I predict that the RX100 will gain a bit of a cult following for video making. Its movie setting on the mode dial allows user-set aperture and shutter speed, full control once you add manual focus.
Suggestions that it may supplant NEX are groundless. You can fit wonderful glass on NEX, and get 24 megapixels to the highest standard. You can’t fit wonderful glass on the RX100 and the zoom it comes with, Carl Zeiss or not, has clearly visible distortion and aberration issues that depend on firmware or software for correction.
Is it worth the money?
Maybe. I think the RX100 has been overpriced by around £100 in the UK but I see that many retailers are already dropping the price by that amount. Around £400-450 seems a fair price, the official £550-580 is high. Update: we sold our (Japan, June 2012) RX100 for £400 in August 2012. A replacement (China, July 2012) was found as new for £385, eBay used, in February 2013. New prices are now more of less where we suggested they should be, mid £400s UK, cheaper USA.